Five Amazing Songs I First Heard On TV Episodes
It is a beautiful thing when I am watching a TV show and a song I don’t know plays behind a significant moment, especially a climax, and I am so blown away by it that I immediately look it up on the internet. It’s cool when music and TV scenes come together with marvelous synergy and it’s a song I already know. Yet when I do not know the song it is even better, as I love being introduced to new music. And when this collision of an unfamiliar song overlaying a TV moment rocks my world, the two will forever be linked in my mind. The song then becomes more than music and lyrics; it becomes part of TV lore.
This has happened dozens of times in my life. Here are five that rise to the top of the list.
[Note: There are major spoilers revealed in these scenes.]
“Not As We” (Alanis Morissette)
TV Episode: House M.D. 04:03 “97 Seconds”
This is my favorite House episode as it chronicles House’s argument against the idea of an afterlife. His mind is not changed after he goes to extreme lengths to find the truth but the fact Wilson cleverly and articulately pushes back against House is a huge part of why I loved this show.
The song itself plays when House, after being told by a man who was legally dead for 97 seconds that there is something amazing on the other side, tries to replicate this experience by electrocuting himself in the hospital. Where he knows he will be revived quickly but not immediately. Honestly, the song lyrics do not match the scene to me and would play far better behind a person trying to move on after an intense break-up or a death. But the music does match the tone of the episode and I’m sure that is why they chose it.
The song reaches deep in its emotion and really pulls me in. Alanis Morissette did this for a lot of people many times over, especially women. This one time she got me as well. I’ve listened to it dozens of times.
“One October Song” (Nico Stai)
TV Episodes: Chuck 03.18 “Chuck vs. the Subway” and 04.07 “Chuck vs. the Fistfight”
Chuck is a sleeper show to me, one that doesn’t have a huge following in my circles but was surprisingly good and very versatile. An action-comedy at heart, it had plenty of romance and drama and heartstring-pulling. It also had some epic guest spots that gave tribute to the 80s, including Dolph Lundgren in a one-off and Linda Hamilton and Scott Bakula in recurring roles as Chuck’s parents.
Perhaps the most tear-jerking plot development in the series is when Stephen suddenly gets killed by Shaw at the end of Season 3. This song plays alongside that moment and enhances the emotion and has compelled me to listen to it over and over again. Which in turn lets me relive this Chuck episode. The song plays again at the end of a Season 4 episode and compliments it as well.
TV Episode: Scrubs 05:19 “His Story III”
The Janitor on Scrubs had a pretty simple role on the show: to give J.D. an extremely hard time and to make super weird off the cuff comments that bordered on disturbing. So when we got a chance to peel back the curtain a little and see him as a human being, as we do in this episode, it is special. Make no mistake–the ending moment with the song is set up by the Janitor kidnapping J.D. and making a bunch of random hilarious declarations to a man in the hospital who needed a computer to talk but could not for a while as his computer was broken.
Since no one else would talk to him and because everyone else was busy insulting the janitor for having a menial job, the janitor utilizes this man’s forced silence to vent to him. And, as a result, to bond with him. It’s very subtle and doesn’t really pay off until the very end the conversation when Dr. Cox comes in with the sick man’s new computer and the first thing the man says is “Thank you”. After Dr. Cox accepts his gratitude the man says, “I wasn’t talking to you,” before the camera pans to the Janitor mopping up the floor with a look of humble satisfaction at this small victory in his monotonous work life.
At that very moment, the line from this song, “No one knows my name” is heard. Which is just perfect, since the Janitor’s name is never given in this show and since the whole point of this subplot was to highlight his invisible job in a place where the most important life or death jobs are on display.
Honorable mentions for Scrubs would include “Closer” by Joshua Radkin and “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hay. This show mastered music and climaxes so well I had my own “Scrubs” playlist on iTunes.
“I Go To The Barn Because I Like The” (Band of Horses)
TV Episode: Psych 04.16 “Mr. Yin Presents”
This is my favorite TV episode of all time, of any genre, and this song helps it achieve that lofty accolade.
The Yang trilogy is truly exceptional entertainment, from the heightened stakes, to the villain’s acumen, to Mary’s presence, to everything that Shawn and Gus say and do. And at the climax of the second part–the episode that honors film Part 2s like Empire Strikes Back and Godfather II by being the apex of the series–we get a mind-blowing and goosebump-shattering cliffhanger. And the song that James Roday chose to play along with it was, in his words, the only song he could have chosen that would work for this ending.
It begins with Abigail telling Shawn that unless he can give up Psych and having psychopaths wanting to hurt the people he loves, she can no longer be with him. Then it cuts to a series of poignant scenes without words that melt my heart every time: Juliet finally breaks down in Lassiter’s arms after trying to hold it together after her traumatic experience, Henry cleans the paint off of the Psych office door that Yin used to taunt Shawn, Shawn and Gus attend Mary’s funeral dressed in full racquetball attire, Yang stares ahead from her padded cell and Yin comes home as the camera pans to a picture on his table of….Yang and young Shawn? WHAT???
Just a phenomenal three minutes of TV. It messed with my head for days. And I quickly found the song on iTunes, put it on my iPod Nano and listened to it 50 times the next few days.
“Easier to Lie” (Aqualung)
TV Episode: Lie to Me 01:01 “Pilot”
Lie To Me didn’t have the best series premiere of any show ever (Lost and Friday Night Lights would be shows on that short list) but it was still excellent. And after a twist ending where Cal lies to get a girl to tell the truth, this song helps close the episode over a montage of scenes that gave me chill bumps and let me know this was going to be my kind of show. I also love the added touch of Dr. Lightman telling Rita: “Believe what you want to believe. Everyone else does.” This has never been more obvious than in the social media age.
So that is my list. What are some of yours?
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16 thoughts on “Five Amazing Songs I First Heard On TV Episodes”
Back in the day, we watched the original CSI. There was an episode that had “The Funeral” by Band of Horses in it. It was an awesome scene and the song made it that much better. Up to that point, I had never heard the song before. I did not rest until I figured out what song it was – and back then, it was a little more difficult to figure that kind of stuff out.
That is so cool! One of the songs that could clearly be on this list but I omitted it because it was also a “Chuck” song and I was going for 5 different TV shows was “Rivers and Roads”. I had never heard it and man did it nail the Chuck final scenes. It was also played on New Girl but it wasn’t nearly as memorable from that show and I really only noted it because we had seen Chuck before.
One of the best shows at introducing new-to-me music was Parenthood. I can’t list the number of great songs that show used. And they were always used so perfectly as well – really adding to the power of a particular scene.
I’m stunned I didn’t include one from that show because I totally agree. I need to watch it again and take better notes. But I definitely had the “I need to look up that song” experience multiple times.
Also for anyone who is not familiar with Band of Horses or hasn’t seen that Psych episode or whatnot….the name of the song above is correct. It always looks wrong but that is because they gave it a very unique title that twists normal English around. I have no idea why.
It’s hilarious that two of you found out about a Band of Horses song through a tv show. I discovered “The Funeral” from How I Met Your Mother. And it was the first song I thought of when I saw this article.
The one that stands out for me is “At This Moment” from Billy Vera and the Beaters on Family Ties
That was an outstanding one as well. I had to look it up to remember but I do recall it now. Michael J Fox was king of the 80s!
While it’s not my favorite show of all time or even close to that, the show that I consider having used popular music to best effect is Hell on Wheels.
This is not a joke. live from the masters on golf channel uses a song called “a perfect day”. It fits so well with the masters.
I cannot imagine anyone being foolish enough to joke or make a mockery of the Masters. The patrons would have none of it, and the ghost of Bobby Jones would surely haunt that man’s dreams in the soothing tones of Jim Nantz voice.
Scrubs did music as well as any show. My favorite was when Turk and Carla announced their pregnancy to everyone. The Kutluss song “All of the Words” played in the background. Conversation faded out and the lyrics “It’s not that I’m worthy, I thank You, Jesus, for the love You have shown” are heard. Nothing less than worship can capture the joy of finding out you’re having a baby.
I remember that one well and it was fantastic. All the chill bumps for that closing scene. Even Cox was hugging people. And great theological point.
I first discovered Drew Holcomb after hearing “What would I do without you?” on How I Met Your Mother.
Show: Warehouse 13 – Season 03 Episode 11 “Emily Lake”
Song: “Running up that Hill” Covered by Track and Field (Originally sung by Kate Bush Album “Hounds of Love” in 1985)
The song is overlaid to the ending events of the episode. In this episode a beloved character, Steve Jinks is killed. The culmination of his partner and best friend, Claudia finding his body overlaid with this song and hearing her screams always brings such emotion and tears to my eyes.
“If I only could,
make a deal with God,
get Him to swap our places..”
Such a perfect song when you see a person you love so much die, you would do anything to take their place.
Song Cover by Track and Field:
Original Song by Kate Bush: